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I’m edit­ing a short story and I’ve stum­bled upon a prob­lem. I fre­quently use struc­tures like:

  • Agony had my in­sides con­vuls­ing.
  • De­feat had me slump­ing into a chair.
  • Fear had my body shak­ing.

My ques­tion is, are these sen­tences cor­rect as writ­ten, or should they be writ­ten like this:

  • Agony had my in­sides con­vulse.
  • De­feat had me slump into a chair.
  • Fear had my body shake.
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  • In the second set, "had" doesn't work for me. I'd use "made" or something similar.
    – ralph.m
    Dec 26 '18 at 22:15
  • They are fine and the structure is pretty common. Why are you unsure of their correctness? Can you explain further?
    – Kris
    Dec 27 '18 at 9:35
  • Like I said, I use structures like Defeat had me slumping into a chair, so HAVE/HAD + Person/Thing+ Verb -ing form. Then I looked over the causative structure which is Causative Verb + Person/Thing + Verb (infinitive form), and I wasn't sure anymore which version was correct.
    – MihaelaP
    Dec 27 '18 at 9:58
  • If you could find two versions, then how would you suspect one of them may not be correct? As I always ask here: Why should only one of alternatives be correct? They may or may not mean the same, though.
    – Kris
    Dec 28 '18 at 6:01
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Sᴜᴍ­ᴍᴀʀʏ

No, you shouldn’t swap the verb com­ple­ment from con­tin­u­ous form to its in­fini­tive form as you’ve sug­gested do­ing. The change in as­pect would sub­tly al­ter the mean­ing: they are not equiv­a­lent. If you did that, it would mean some­thing else subtly different.

Look at it this way:

  • If your mother had you eat your peas, then that means she made you eat the peas, and they are are now eaten and done with.

  • In con­trast, if she had you eat­ing your peas, she did some­thing to leave you in the state that you were (still!) eat­ing your peas, not that you had al­ready fin­ished do­ing so as in the orig­i­nal.

Tech­ni­cal De­tails

When you use the verb have in a tran­si­tive way with an ob­ject and then an­other com­ple­ment, that com­ple­ment ex­presses ei­ther (1) the ac­tion that the sub­ject causes the ob­ject to take, or (2) the re­sult­ing con­di­tion of the ob­ject caused by that sub­ject.

All this falls under OED sense #28 for the verb have: [paywalled link]

  1. transitive. With complement expressing an action or state caused by the subject. Also with will or would indicating volition or requirement; cf. will v.¹ 40a.

Both your ex­am­ples are of this sort. The dif­fer­ence be­tween them is that the first uses a bare in­fini­tive for its com­ple­ment, while the sec­ond uses the progressive ‑ing form for its com­ple­ment. Here are ex­am­ples from each of the OED’s four sub­­senses for sense 2, vary­ing by the type of com­ple­ment:

  1. He had the guns counted. (com­ple­ment is past par­tici­ple)
  2. She had them in tears. (other com­ple­ment)
  3. What would you have me do? / I'll have you know. (com­ple­ment is bare in­fini­tive)
  4. He had them rolling in the aisles. (com­ple­ment is ‑ing verb)

Both your ex­am­ples are non-fi­nite verb phrases/clauses, but they mean slightly dif­fer­ent things, cor­re­spond­ing to the third and fourth OED sub­senses for sense 28.

The third sub­sense is this one:

  • c. With bare infinitive (formerly also †to-infinitive, †at and infinitive) as complement.

    (a) To in­duce, pre­vail upon, or com­pel (a per­son) or to suc­ceed in caus­ing (a thing) to do some­thing; e.g. what would you have me do? Also (in weak­ened sense): to cause or set (a per­son) to do some­thing for one. Cf. get v. 28a.

    Also oc­ca­sion­ally with pas­sive in­fini­tive: to cause or com­pel to un­dergo the spec­i­fied ac­tion; cf. sense 28a.

    See also I'll have you know at Phrases 3b.

In sim­pler words, it means to “make” some­one do the spec­i­fied ac­tion. So she had me eat peas could have been writ­ten she made me eat peas in­stead. Those two mean the same thing.

The fourth sub­sense is the type be­ing used in your three orig­i­nal sen­tences:

  • d. With present par­tici­ple as com­ple­ment. To com­pel, in­duce, ar­range for (a per­son or thing) to be do­ing some­thing; e.g. he had them rolling in the aisles. Cf. get v. 31b.

So the dif­fer­ence here is one of as­pect. The (c) case is a bare in­fin­tive so there is no con­tin­u­ous as­pect in­volved. The (d) case by us­ing the ‑ing form of the verb uses the con­tin­u­ous as­pect to con­vey that the ac­tion was an on­go­ing one, that it was in progress.

Here for the record are the first two sub­senses from the OED:

  • a. With past par­tici­ple as com­ple­ment. To cause or ar­range for the spec­i­fied ac­tion to be per­formed on (a per­son or thing); e.g. he had the guns counted. Cf. get v. 29a(a).

  • b. With com­ple­ment. To bring into the spec­i­fied state or con­di­tion, esp. de­lib­er­ately; to cause to be­come; to make, ren­der; e.g. she had them in tears. Cf. get v. 26a(a).

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Agony had my insides convulsing. This is normal.

Agony had my insides convulse. This (a) personifies Agony and (b) seems to imply a third party who was instructed by Agony to cause your insides to convulse - perhaps by administering poison?

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    Try and include some authentic references to support and strengthen the argument, though.
    – Kris
    Dec 28 '18 at 5:56

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